It felt more party than protest as hundreds of people paddled into the Port of Newcastle on kayaks, surfboards and pontoons in what organisers hope will be the biggest civil disobedience action in Australia’s history. On shore people stood shoulder to shoulder on Saturday, waving at the protesters, who will occupy the channel for 30 hours to stop coal exports from leaving Newcastle. Some were dancing along to a band and waving Extinction Rebellion flags. Others gave the protest a comical air, such as Helen Child, who dressed up as Clive Palmer with a sign that said “Let Them Eat Coal”. But for all its frivolity, the message the organisers Rising Tide hope to send to the government is serious.
Akbelen forest, western Turkey. Local villagers and environmental activists try to stop the expansion of a coal mine. Just three months after strongman President Erdoğan was re-elected, people flocked here from all over Turkey to try to save the remaining woodland. The protest is a symbol of a wider struggle to protect the environment in Turkey, from companies which often enjoy close relations with the government. The coal giant Limak Holding is a typical example. President Erdoğan dismissed the protesters as ‘marginal’, opposed to the country’s economic development. Despite a nation-wide outcry, the forest clearing continues with the protection of the Turkish security forces.
Dozens of people have been arrested after protesters scaled a train bound for the Port of Newcastle and began shovelling coal out of its wagons. The train was brought to a standstill a few kilometres from the port while passing Sandgate, near the Pacific Highway, about 10am on Sunday. About 20 people linked to so-called climate defence group Rising Tide climbed on to the train and used shovels to unload coal from the laden wagons, while another 30-odd provided support inside the rail corridor. A banner hung from the train read: “Survival guide for humanity: no new coal.” A spokesperson for the group said about 50 people were arrested and moved out of the rail corridor.
Greta Thunberg was one of the climate activists detained Tuesday during the struggle to protect the German village of Lützerath from being swallowed by an expanding coal mine, the second time this week that the Swedish climate campaigner has been detained during the protests. Images revealed Tuesday showed German police physically carrying Thunberg away from the edge of part of the mine, as DW reported. Police told Reuters that she was being held with other demonstrators who would all be released later in the day. “Greta Thunberg was part of a group of activists who rushed towards the ledge. However, she was then stopped and carried by us with this group out of the immediate danger area to establish their identity,” a spokesperson for the police of Aachen, Germany, told Reuters.
A somber bell toll broke the silence outside the West Brookwood Church in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. The white-gloved hand of Larry Spencer, International Vice President of Mine Workers (UMWA) District 20, solemnly struck the Miners’ Memorial bell as the names of victims of mine-related deaths were read aloud. “As we gather this evening for our service, it is appropriate that we remember in the past twelve months over 2021 and 2022 there has been tremendous heartache as the result of mining accidents across this country,” Thomas Wilson, a retired UMWA staff representative, announced from the podium. “Twelve coal miners’ lives have been snuffed out—also, 19 metal and non-metal miners—for a total of 31 fallen miners since we last gathered.”
The coal industry is to Australia what the Second Amendment of the US Constitution (granting citizens the right to bear arms) is to the United States: it would be hard to imagine the country without it. With fossil fuels still accounting for 92 per cent of Australia’s energy mix, including 29 per cent for coal in 2021, the industry is still vigorously defended by lobbies, even in parliamentary circles and the corridors of ministries. Australia’s conservative former prime minister Scott Morrison famously held up a piece of coal in Parliament in 2017, when he was finance minister, admonishing his colleagues not to be afraid of it. When he became prime minister, he also directly surrounded himself with lobbyists like John Kunkel, former vice-chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, who he appointed chief of staff in 2018.
Matt Reuscher was laid off a decade ago from Peabody Energy’s Gateway coal mine in Southern Illinois, in the midst of a drought that made the water needed to wash the coal too scarce and caused production to drop, as he remembers it. Reuscher’s grandfather and two uncles had been miners, and his father — a machinist — did much work with the mines. Like many young men in Southern Illinois, it was a natural career choice for Reuscher. Still in his early 20s when he was laid off, Reuscher “spent that summer doing odds and ends, not really finding much of anything I enjoyed doing as much as being underground.” By fall of 2012, he started working installing solar panels for StraightUp Solar, one of very few solar companies operating in the heart of Illinois coal country. He heard about the job through a family friend and figured he’d give it a try since he had a construction background. He immediately loved the work, and he’s become an evangelist for the clean energy shift happening nationwide, if more slowly in Southern Illinois. With colleagues, he fundraised to install solar panels in tiny villages on the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua, and he became a solar electrician and worked on StraightUp Solar installations powering the wastewater treatment center and civic center in Carbondale, Illinois — a town named for coal.
Environmental campaigners staged a protest outside Enfield Power Station against what they claim is an “attack on democracy” by the site’s owners. Global Justice Now activists marched to the energy plant in Brimsdown as part of a national day of action against fossil fuel companies driving up climate costs. Enfield Power Station is owned by German company Uniper, which is currently taking legal action again the Dutch government over its decision to phase out coal burning by 2030. Uniper opened a coal plant in the Netherlands in 2015 and is demanding compensation for the revenues it will lose from closing it, reported to be £774million. Energy companies are able to seek such compensation under an international agreement called the Energy Charter Treaty, to which the UK is signed up.
Roundup, Montana - Some rare good news came down from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently. In a 2-1 decision, the court rejected an Environmental Assessment (EA) that would have green lighted expansion to the Bull Mountains underground coal mine near Roundup, Montana. The court majority held that the EA provided no scientific reasoning to support its conclusion that the expansion would have no significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. A Trump appointee on the 3-judge panel dissented on grounds that courts “are ill-equipped to step into highly politicized scientific debates like this.” As a result of the 9th Circuit decision, four environmental groups — 350 Montana, Montana Environmental Information Center, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians — will be allowed to continue their lawsuit challenging the environmental review in Montana federal court.
Grant Town, WV, Monday April 11– Sixteen activists who were arrested on Saturday for blockading the coal-fired Grant Town Power Plant that burns coal waste to profit US Senator Joe Manchin were released from jail overnight. On Sunday, activists returned to the plant for a Palm Sunday service to continue their call for Manchin to stop blocking passage of the federal Build Back Better bill. On Saturday, hundreds of West Virginia residents and climate change activists protested outside of the plant for several hours on Saturday to bring light to the fact that not only has Manchin been stalling efforts to address climate change, but he is also personally benefiting from the continuation of fossil fuels that are creating climate chaos in US communities– including the ones he represents.
The lights went out around Johannesburg on a Monday morning in November 2021, not to flicker back on until early that Friday in some areas. It marked the last rolling blackout of a year troubled by more outages than any in recent memory. The fate of Eskom, the beleaguered power utility behind the crisis, is now at the center of South Africa’s struggle for a just energy transition — a break from fossil fuels without leaving behind frontline communities or energy workers. As a public company, Eskom has a constitutional mandate to guarantee electricity as a basic right. But the utility struggles to meet that mandate with its aging equipment, staggering debt, corruption and rules that require it to break even, which drive exorbitant rate hikes.
There’s one form of power that’s generated when hot water turns turbines to create electricity. There are other forms of power held by investors, property owners and regulatory agencies. And then there’s people power, which can be harnessed to affect decisions of investors, property owners and regulatory agencies — such that fossil fuel-burning operations cease running. That’s what the No Coal No Gas campaign seeks to do with its focus on shutting down New England’s last coal-burning power plant, Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire. No Coal No Gas, which launched its first protest against the power plant in 2019, returned to Bow on Oct. 3 for a day of mass action. In addition to a rally on an adjacent ballfield and a flotilla of “kayaktivists” in the Merrimack River, campaign members planted gardens on company property, including a bed hacked out with pickaxes in the middle of an access road.
Bennington, VT - Plastics are on track to contribute more climate change emissions than coal plants by 2030, a new report finds. As fossil fuel companies seek to recoup falling profits, they are increasing plastics production and cancelling out greenhouse gas reductions gained from the recent closures of 65 percent of the country’s coal-fired power plants. The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change by Beyond Plastics at Bennington College analyzes never-before-compiled data of ten stages of plastics production, usage, and disposal and finds that the U.S. plastics industry is releasing at least 232 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of 116 average-sized coal-fired power plants. And that number is growing quickly.
Julie Macuga paints two scenes when describing the Merrimack River – the first as a scenic site, where kayakers and canoers alike can float in nature. The second image is an ugly industrial site crowding the waterway with tall, brown smokestacks spewing clouds of carbon, polluting the water and air. “It’s this beautiful place and it’s juxtaposed with this horrible coal plant,” she said. Macuga was one of a group of protesters who paddled up and down the river on Wednesday in protest of the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow. Just after the sun came up, she and eleven other “kayakativists” from the campaign No Coal No Gas took to the river at 6 a.m. in their latest demonstration in hopes of shutting down the plant. The coal stack burned as the group sang and chanted, paddling up and floating back down in front of the plant.
Australia - More than 100 people embarked on the “Tour de Carmichael”, a 105-kilometre cycle for Country through sacred Wangan and Jagalingou land to Adani’s coal mine site in the Galilee Basin in early May. They reached the mine site on May 7. The four-day action was led by Wangan and Jagalingou man, Coedie MacAvoy, son of Uncle Adrian Burragubba. “It's distressing to see the change in landscape. We don’t know what damage the mine will do to our sacred Doongmabulla Springs. That's why we're here — to expose Adani's destruction of Country,” MacAvoy said. The tour had previously stopped at a number of significant sites to the Wangan and Jagalingou people, and camped at “Dalgayu Dina”, the site on Adani’s pastoral lease where McAvoy and others have built a coroboree ground and campsite.